Chapter 7

"Hey, open up will you? My hands are full!"

Jade swung the door open and took a few packages off the top of the heap in Tourmalines arms.

"Did you go rabid in the market? There's enough food here for the whole apartment building!"

"It's not that much really, a lot of it keeps well and I was flush today."

"Good fares?"

"The best, I can fault the elves for a lot but they are good tippers."

Jade laughed and shook his head.

"I do hope their gold holds up, I hate the thought of the innocent merchants ending up with a pouch full of leaves and stones."

"I'm thinking it'll hold, they're pretty quick learners."

He drifted around the cluttered room, picking up an occasional sketch, while Jade made tea.

He collected a few papers and handed them to Jade in exchange for a cup.

"When the hell was he here?"

Jade riffled through the papers and shrugged.

"He drops by now and then, he's going by Noir this week. I do wish he'd settle on a name. The cats are nice in any case, wish they'd breed, I'd love a flying kitten."

"I think they're both males so breeding is out of the question. Anyone else sneak in while I'm out?"

"Squirrel was over yesterday, he's been hanging out in the center city park. He didn't actually sneak in though; he just climbed the tree by the kitchen window and knocked."

"Center City? That's a tough neighborhood, I hope he's careful."

"He's pretty tough himself actually; I think he's going to be fine. Any interesting news? I've been deep in planning the next mural and I don't think I've poked my head out since…what day is it?"

"It's Saturday, and are you going to cook some of that food? I doubt you've eaten today and I know I haven't. You cook and I'll talk, deal?"

"Sure."

"News, let's see…the drones continue to drop like dead flies, most of them helped along by net traps or slung stones or arrows. I found one pinned right into the sidewalk by some kind of dart, it was buzzing and smoking and eventually sizzled to silence. I didn't check it out too closely but the next time I went by it was squashed flat in the gutter. So far there hasn't been too much obvious retribution but it makes me anxious anyway, it's bound to come sooner or later."

Jade turned from the stove.

"I suppose it is a matter of time, Noir says his people are keeping an eye on things but I'm not sure exactly what they plan to do when it happens. I probably don't want to know"

"He has people? I've only ever seen him with the cats."

"Well, I'm not sure 'people' is really the term, you should doff the patch and check out the shadows that hover around him. I can't see anything in them but I have the feeling something is there."

"I think I'll pass thanks. Aside from the drones things seem to be going along pretty much as normal. Some of the story tellers at the market place are coming up with a lot of new material and there are rumors of ghosts and wonders in some of the emptier areas of the city. "

"How many believe the rumors?"

Tourmaline shrugged.

"Hard to tell, people hunger for wonders. You can't blame them really. Is that ready? It smells great."

"Just hand me down some plates and we'll eat."

He complied and they settled at the table with steaming plates.

Jade raised his tea mug in a quick toast before they dug in.

"What shall we do in a world of wonder?"

Tourmaline chewed slowly, thinking.

"I was thinking that dancing might be appropriate."

"Here? Now? With who?"

"Later, at a club. And with each other. Of course if you don't…"

"Together would be good! I like together fine."

"Me too."